Creative Commons Launches Version 4.0 of Its Licenses

CC LogoEarlier this week, the Creative Commons Organization announced the launch of version 4.0 of it’s popular licenses.

Creative Commons Licenses are used by many content creators and websites, including this one, to give others a blanket license to use their work with certain caveats chosen by the by the creator. For example if a creator is fine with others using his work for noncommercial use so long as he or she is attributed, they can choose a license allowing noncommercial use but forbidding commercial ones.

The licenses were first launched in 2002 and have been through three versions prior, with the last version being released in 2007. However, the new licenses, according to the release represent over 2 years of input and feedback from the community, which has been used to create the new licenses.

So what is new with the latest version of the Creative Commons Licenses? I decided to dive in and have a look.

What’s New in Creative Commons 4.0

creaitve-commons-work-logoCreative Commons itself provides a great guide for what is new. However, the biggest and most important change, by far, is the internationalization of the licenses.

Previously, Creative Commons would “port” or draft new versions of its licenses for every jurisdiction. This was a time-consuming process but, over the course of 6 years, they had managed to draft new versions for some 60 jurisdictions.

However, according to the organization, the new licenses are international by their very nature and do not need porting, using new terminology that is better accepted globally. This is buffered by the release of official translations of the licenses so non-English speakers can read the terms in their native language.

Beyond that, most of the changes deal with outlier situations that, though rare to come up, were deemed worth addressing. Those changes include:

  1. Database Rights: Though not available in the U.S., many other nations give copyright-like rights to databases, which were previously not covered under CC licenses, possibly leading to accidental infringement of database rights. The new licenses address database rights and cover them under the terms.
  2. Moral Rights: Though, once again, not prominent in the U.S., other nations have moral rights that protect the author’s right to be attributed, object to certain users of his/her work, etc. Those rights are now waived as far as necessary for the license (if possible). Same goes for publicity, privacy and personality rights.
  3. Attribution Shifts: The new version of the license clarifies the attribution requirements, making it possible to use a separate page for attribution information, sic as a footnote in a book.
  4. Extra Anonymity: The previous version allowed licensors to request that their attribution be removed from derivative works created under a CC license if they so chose. The new licenses extend that right to verbatim uses as well.
  5. Resolving License Violations: Finally, the new licenses add a 30-day window for a licensee to correct violations of the Creative Commons License before the license expires. Previously, the licenses expired immediately, even if the violation was unintentional.

Other than that, the new licenses attempt to clear up a few fuzzy ares, such as how adaptations are licensed, and improve overall readability, making them much sorter and more simplified.

All in all, the changes really don’t have much of a bearing on 99% of uses of Creative Commons Licenses but there is still some cause to look closer before making the jump.

Should You Switch?

If you’re on version 3.0 of the license and aren’t automatically moved to the new version, the big question is whether or not you should make the jump.

On the surface, the new licenses have a great deal to offer. Better internationalization and more streamlined licenses go a long ways to improving enforceability. In short, making the licenses applicable to more countries and more readable is a good thing for everyone involved.

Giving extra anonymity to the licensor is also a benefit to them. Though there aren’t many situations in which they would want to have their name removed from their work (and even fewer cases where the licensee wouldn’t agree regardless of the exact terms), having it spelled out is a good thing for the licensor.

The moral rights and the database rights issues might give some pause, but those shifts, from my interpretation, appear to be more about clarifying rights that were already implied. Very few would grant a broad copyright license to create derivative works and then use moral rights to object to a specific one. The same goes for database rights.

Still, one should take these as a warning regarding all of the rights they are giving up when they use a CC License and should weigh these rights carefully. That being said, they should have been weighed before the new version as well.

The one issue many may take is the new solution to resolving violations. Under the new terms, if someone violates a CC License, if they correct the issue within 30 days, the license is reinstated. Some might interpret this to mean that you can violate CC licenses at will but, when called on it, fix matter within 30 days with immunity.

However, that isn’t what the license says, in the full text, it clearly states that:

For the avoidance of doubt, this Section 6(b) does not affect any right the Licensor may have to seek remedies for Your violations of this Public License.

Since Section 6(b) is the portion that deals with getting a license reinstated, this means that the original infringement of the license is just that, an infringement, and the licensor can sue, file takedown notices or take other action against it.

The caveat is that such action no longer means the license is invalid forever, at least not automatically. The licensee can fix the issue and use the work again within 30 days. However, that doesn’t shield them from lawsuits for the initial infringement.

Still, this section might give some cause to reflect. The idea of others knowingly infringing the license, acting under bad faith, being able to “fix” the issue and use the work anew. But this has to be weighed against the issue of others having the license terminated forever due to simple mistakes.

In short, these provisions will give users of Creative Commons works greater security, but may put some content creators off.

Bottom Line

The ultimate question of “Should I Upgrade?” is up to you. The internationalization and clarification of the licenses are good things and most of the rest of changes deal with rare outliers that, in my experience, almost never happen.

While I’m personally a bit wary of potential abuse of the 30-day rule, I also understand its logic and need. In my experience, those who infringe Creative Commons-Licensed works have no interest in complying with the license at all, regardless of deadlines, so I struggle to imagine widespread abuse of this.

Still, everyone needs to make these decisions for themselves and I encourage you to read what’s new in the latest version and draw your own conclusions.

With that being said, if I may have a personal note, thank you all for your readership and the time you spend on this site. I’m truly grateful to have you here and I hope that those of you who are celebrating have a happy Thanksgiving.